‘Every site checked’: FSIN demand governments search residential school sites for remains

Global News [Toronto, Canada]

May 30, 2021

By Kelly Skjerven

[With videos]

Following the discovery of a mass grave at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC., the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is calling on all levels of government to take action.

“We understand the enormous loss and mourn with the families affected by the 215 children found in Kamloops. We know that thousands of First Nations children did not make it home and were buried without any markers or outcry from the public. Canada and Saskatchewan have an immense amount of work in the area of reconciliation and addressing this horrific history” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.

“We will not allow Government to continue to ignore these lost children. We must reconcile and reclaim the mass grave sites of our children from across Saskatchewan, within our Treaty Territories, in order to mourn and move forward.”

The FSIN wants the Liberal government, Conservatives, NDP, and the Saskatchewan Party to work with them to complete radar ground searches in the province at Indian Residential School (IRS) sites.

The FSIN says they have been informed that residential school sites including Muskowekwan IRS, Onion Lake St. Anthony’s IRS, Beauval IRS, Guy Hill IRS, Lebret IRS, Sturgeon Landing IRS and more have potential grave sites.

“We respectfully request all First Nations across our traditional lands to join us in this important lobby effort,” a press release added.

The last residential school closed in 1996 in Saskatchewan.

“All levels of Government have a moral and ethical responsibility to address these harms immediately. Both levels of Government must do what is right, the whole world is watching,” Cameron said.

Cameron added that the FSIN is consulting with ground-penetrating radar experts to help find lost remains.

“However difficult this path will be, we must speak our truth and reclaim our ancestors. We ask all families to come forward with their stories.”

Calls to search residential school sites for unmarked graves and remains are also being echoed by local community members.

In Regina, Prairie Crowe set up a memorial for the 215 children on the steps of Saskatchewan’s legislative building.

Around noon, more than 200 shoes covered the steps.

Crowe said she was scrolling social media on Saturday and noticed similar memorials set up in other cities, but she didn’t see anything in Regina.

“I had some spare shoes around the house so I came and put the shoes down and made a social media post on Facebook,” Crowe told Global News.

“I wanted to make a spot for the community to do that and also in solidarity with the communities that these children came from who are probably grieving and mourning and to make a visual impact because people deny what happened in residential schools still.”

Crowe added that she wanted to show what 215 children look like.

Having quickly grown in a matter of hours, Crowe isn’t surprised so many more shoes were added to the memorial on Sunday as so many people were affected by residential schools.

“I’m glad that I was able to put an outlet for people to come and remember and pay respects and grieve a little bit, to get that out, because I didn’t know what to do with my feelings,” Crowe said.

“Every site needs to be checked and I think there needs to be memorials at every site.”

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.